Friday 31 July 2020

Rain at Rame, Sunshine on Dartmoor

The weather forecast for Sunday night/ Monday morning on July 26th/27th was for gales and rain and so I decided to visit Rame Head on Monday 27th July to try a bit of sea watching. I didn't get on site until nearly 10 am, much later than I really wanted but after working a night shift on Saturday night and having only 3 hours sleep in 36 hours I needed a decent night's sleep and a lie in.

It was mizzley and very windy on arriving at The Chapel on Rame Head and as I settled into position out of the wind I picked up a few Gannet offshore quickly followed by a few Manx Shearwater moving west. The Shearwaters were moving through in a slow but steady trickle and around 100 were seen in total in my 3 hours of scanning. A few Fulmars and Kittiwakes were also noted along with more Gannets including a small flock circling over a pod of Harbour Porpoise as they unobtrusively broke the surface in the choppy seas but unfortunately I found nothing more unusual although there were some interesting reports from elsewhere along the South Devon/Cornwall coast.

At one point the rain bucketed down and visibility was almost down to zero but eventually the rain cleared through, the wind eased and the sun appeared and I watched a 6-Spot Burnet, Gatekeeper, Wall, Meadow Brown, a Red Admiral and Small White along the cliff tops and along the lanes.



Whitethroat, Swallow, House Martin and Greenfinch were also seen along with just 1 Fallow Deer, a very impressive looking stag with large antlers.

A wet but enjoyable visit and not a lot on show although the next day Sooty Shearwater and Great Skua were both reported from Rame Head - never mind.

Wednesday 29th July was a rare day when we were both free and so we drove up to Dartmoor to walk along the old railway line from Princetown to Swell Tor Quarry and back. It was a warm but breezy day and mostly sunny and the air was very clear giving some amazing views across the Moor and out to Plymouth and the coast. It was very busy with walkers though and there were quite a few very yappy dogs but we had a very enjoyable time.

The highlight for David was finding the corbels left by the side of the railway line that had been made for London Bridge but which were surplus to requirements.

London Bridge Corbels, Swell Tor Quarry

My highlights were Wheatear, Skylark Raven, Kestrel, Buzzard, Swallow and Meadow Pipit, Emperor Dragonfly, Common Blue Damselfly and Common Darter in Foggintor Quarry and Small Heath, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell and Meadow Brown.

Emperor Dragonfly

Common Blue Damselfly

Common Darter

I finally had the moth box out in the back yard overnight on Wednesday 29th/Thursday 30th July and while it was warmer than previous nights it was still chilly and I only had a few moths in it when I checked it out in the morning. Four-spotted Footman, 2 Knot Grass, Silver Y and Lime-speck Pug were new for the garden year list in what was a disappointing total of 15 moths of 12 species.

 Silver Y

 Knot Grass

 Cabbage Moth

Lime Speck Pug

Four-spotted Footman (male)

Thursday 30th July and with a night shift looming I met my work friend Sue and her 2 children at Wembury for a walk and a chat. It was hot and sunny and pleasantly breezy and very busy with beach goers but we did see a few Gannets offshore along with an Oystercatcher, Rock Pipits and Pied Wagtails along the beach. Gatekeeper. Holly Blue, Red Admiral, Small White, Peacock and Meadow Brown were flitting about and the toilet block held a Dingy Footman, a Rusty Dot Pearl and a Double-striped Pug. A female Beautiful Demoiselle was a nice find too in the valley to the beach.

Saturday 25 July 2020

Mid-Summer Birding

Wednesday 22nd July was hot and sunny and so I headed out to Wembury for a walk. It was busy with walkers and beach goers and I was glad to get home and out of the sun but I had a very enjoyable walk.

It was high tide and along the beach by the sewage pipe were a roosting flock of birds although unfortunately they were regularly disturbed by walkers. A Little Egret, a Common Sandpiper, 2 Whimbrel, 20 Oystercatcher, 26 Dunlin, a Redshank and 4 Mediterranean Gulls (2 Juveniles) were all seen before moving out onto the rocks exposed by the outgoing tide - Autumn is on its way.

Cirl Buntings, Stonechat and Whitethroat were all vocal and showy along the walk along with a few Chiffchaff, a singing Blackcap keeping deep in cover, Linnet and 2 Skylark.

Plenty of butterflies were on the wing in the hot conditions - a Wall was a nice find along with a Red Admiral, 2 Small Skipper, Small Copper, Common Blue, a Comma, Gatekeeper, Holly Blue, Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Small White, Green-veined White, a Peacock, Speckled Wood and Large White. A male Beautiful Demoiselle, a Silver Y, a 6-spot Burnet, a Rusty Dot Pearl and a Drinker were also seen.

Small Skipper

Small White

Red Admiral


Silver Y

On arriving home I found a moth in the kitchen which at first I thought was a Snout but on potting it up and checking it out I was pleased to find it was a Bloxworth Snout (thanks to @MothIDUK), my second back yard sighting of one.

Bloxworth Snout

Friday 24th July and I finally visited Dawlish Warren for the first time this year. It was mostly grey and overcast but warm and muggy and still and I arrived at the closed due to COVID-19 and sadly vandalised bird hide for the high tide roost at around 10:00am.

There were plenty of Terns roosting on the island and the wooden posts of "Woodhenge" and I quickly found a beautiful adult Roseate Tern with a silver leg ring perched on a post amongst the Sandwich Terns and Common Terns and which was being admired (and the leg ring read) by the Dawlish Warren Birders present.

Roseate Tern with Sandwich Terns on Woodhenge

A Little Tern was also found roosting amongst the Terns on the island and it was great to watch and listen to the comings and goings of the Common Terns and Sandwich Terns as the adults brought in sand eels for the juveniles.

 Little Tern with Sandwich Terns

Little Tern with Sandwich Terns

 Common Tern with Sandwich Terns

 Roseate Tern with Sandwich Terns

Roseate Tern with Sandwich Terns

Also seen from the hide area and along the beach were Dunlin, Sanderling, Ringed Plover, a Redshank, Whimbrel, Oystercatcher, a Little Egret, a Common Gull and 2 juvenile Mediterranean Gulls.



Common Gull with Black-headed Gulls

Despite the lack of sunshine I had a look for Brown Argus but without any joy but I did see at least 2 Clouded Yellow, a Small Skipper, a Peacock., Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Green-veined White, Small Copper, Common Blue, a Red Admiral and Speckled Wood in the dull conditions.

 Clouded Yellow

 Clouded Yellow

 Common Blue

 Bee Sp.

 Bee Sp.

 Bee Sp.

 Strawberry Clover

 Strawberry Clover

 Marsh Helleborine

Marsh Helleborine

Cirl Bunting, Swallow, a Great-spotted Woodpecker on the fence posts along the Dune Ridge and a Little Grebe, Mallards and Mute Swans on the Main Pond were also noted on my wanderings before I headed home, having had a very productive July visit to The Warren.

A report of the day by the Dawlish Warren Birders can be found by clicking on the link here -

Tuesday 21 July 2020

Butterflies and a Trip to Suffolk

Monday 13th July and I had a walk out to Oreston where a colony of White-tailed Hairstreaks have recently been discovered in an elm tree where the canopy of the tree is level with the footpath allowing some great views of the butterflies.

I soon found a White-letter Hairstreak on arriving at the site and there were at least 3 present in the tree top along with a Speckled Wood, a Holly Blue and a Purple Hairstreak.

White-letter Hairstreak

Purple Hairstreak

I had a look at another White-letter Hairstreak site nearby on the walk home, this time in an elm tree along the cycle path behind The Range Superstore on Billacombe Road, and after a bit of a scan around before the clouds rolled on I found one nectaring on Old Man's Beard below the elm tree before it disappeared from view.

Tuesday 14th July and we drove up to Ipswich in Suffolk for a few days away at my Mums. There were fewer than usual roadside casulalties seen on the journey to Ipswich, presumably due to the lower traffic levels following the COVID-19 lock down giving the wildlife a better chance, but I did see 3 Red Kites soaring over the M3/M25 Motorways. Even better were at least 5 Essex Skippers seen on a layby embankment along the A12 just off the M25 - we had stopped to check the car radio aerial and I had noticed some small orange butterflies flitting about over the grass which turned out to be Essex Skipper although they were very flitty and flighty.

Essex Skipper - black undersides to antennae tips

Essex Skipper

Essex Skipper - Male with short, straight and inconspicuous sex brands on upper wing

Essex Skipper

Essex Skipper

Our time in Ipswich was dry but mostly overcast so butterflying was difficult but I did have the moth box out in my Mums garden on 2 nights and I did manage a short visit to Minsmere although the hides were closed, it was very busy and only 2 of the nature trails were open

Lesser Black-backed Gull Chick, Felixstowe

Mothing was interesting with some familiar species and some new ones too and in much higher numbers than I get in my own back yard here in Plymouth. The highlights were Poplar and Elephant Hawk Moths, Box-tree Moth, Least Carpet, Marbled Beauty, Brown-tail, Dusky Sallow, Feathered Ranunculus, Festoon and Ruby Tiger amongst a good assortment of commoner species.

Box-tree Moth - a pretty pest introduced from Asia

Festoon  - Male

Feathered Ranunculus(?) 

Least Carpet
Small Emerald

My trip to Minsmere on July 16th gave 9 species of butterfly in the dull and grey skies - Small Copper, Small Skipper, Gatekeeper, Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Large White, Red Admiral, Peacock and a Silver-washed Fritillary - but it was too cloudy for White Admirals to be enticed to fly along the woodland rides.

Silver-washed Fritillary



Yellow-horned Poppy

Bird wise it was much more interesting with a good  range of waders seen - Redshank, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Lapwing, Turnstone, Ruff, Avocet, Green Sandpiper, Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher, Spotted Redshank and Stone Curlew - along with Common Tern, Sandwich Tern, Mediterranean Gull, Kittiwake, Marsh Harrier, Hobby, Sedge Warbler and Sand Martin.

Stone Curlew

Stone Curlew

Another 3 Red Kite were seen on the journey back to Plymouth on July 18th, this time along the M3/A303, and the traffic around Stonehenge wasn't too bad for a change considering we travelled home on a July Saturday.

Sunday 19th July was cool and cloudy and so we had a walk along Devonport Leat on Dartmoor, starting at Burrator Reservoir. We have never undertaken this walk before which is surprising as the scenery was beautiful and the Leat very interesting. It was quite busy with walkers and cyclists but not too bad and I heard Green Woodpecker and Siskin and saw Swallows and House Martins plus Beautiful Demoiselles, Ringlet, Gatekeeper and Meadow Brown.

Beautiful Demoiselle

Beautiful Demoiselle wing

Devonport Leat Aquaduct

Brown Trout, Devonport Leat

On the way home we stopped off at Blagdon's Meadow in Plymouth where Clouded Yellows have been reported and within a few minutes of arriving I found 2 dashing across a surprisingly verdant and flower covered meadow although they rarely settled for more than a few seconds.

Monday 20th July was my last day off before returning to work and so I walked out to Oreston to look again for White-letter Hairstreaks and I soon found one perched in the eye-level elm canopy although it was very battered looking.

White-letter Hairstreak

I stopped off at Blagdon's Meadow on the walk home and again quickly found a Clouded Yellow dashing about and again it rarely settled for very long and I also saw Common Blue and Meadow Brown along with 6-spot Burnet and a Small Copper.

Clouded Yellow

Common Blue  - female